Ask The Expert: How to Heal Your IT Band Pain!

A little while ago, I asked you what you might like to learn from “The Expert,” my personal trainer and guru, Aaron Lipsey.  How to get rid of IT band pain is always a popular topic among runners, so I wasn’t really surprised when that came up as a question for him.  However, what might surprise YOU is what he has to say about it!  Read on to find out what HE says might be your REAL problem, and how to fix it!!  All of the exercises he recommends are super easy to do at home – they don’t take too much time, and don’t involve any fancy equipment that you probably don’t have already!

If you’ve got any other questions for Aaron, leave ’em in the comments, and we’ll look at incorporating them into another “Ask The Expert!”  And if you like what he’s got to say, give him a like or follow on his blog Howtosquat.net, or Facebook!

xoox
Lindsey

If there was a way to get rid of your chronic IT band issues, but it took a bit of extra training, would you be interested?

What you’ll read below is nothing too far outside the box.  It’s an easy way to remedy the chronic battles many face with their IT band.  All that is really needed to help alleviate this annoying injury is the discipline to take the program below and add it to your training.

The problem

IT band issues plague all sorts of athletes, and are very common in sports that involve running and jumping.

It’s very rare to see a person run, squat, or jump with their feet and legs facing exactly forward. There is always some sort of rotation of the leg which, even if just slightly, points the toes a bit away from facing forward.  This is one of the problems associated with tight IT bands, but is the outside quad or outside hamstrings actually the issue or could it be something else?

Enter the Quiet Culprit

In recent months working with my clients I have found that there is another area of the body that may be contributing to the problem.  Enter the Achilles tendon. Because we use our calf muscles so much and rotate our feet out so much (driving a car and switching between gas and break pedals, running, squatting, and jumping), we don’t often think that it may be causing or, at the very least, contributing a fair amount to our IT band problems.  And because running and even just standing or wearing high heels as I’m sure many of you do puts so much work on the calf compartment, it is an obvious – yet not so obvious – place to begin.

The Solution

The way to restore the calf to a healthy and limber group of muscles is with a combination of flexibility, strength, and massage.

Strength:

Here is one way I use to strengthen the calf while it is in a stretched position.

Flexibility:

The approach to flexibility I use for my clients differs from the style used in the mainstream. We only stretch as far as a 0.5 on a scale of 1-10.  This is to provide the right amount of pull on the muscle without the stretch going into the tendons – something you do not want to occur.

What that means is, if you were going to stretch a body part, as soon as you felt the slightest stretch, you stop and hold it there. Or, if you like, you can move up and down or side to side, reaching and releasing, to use a dynamic approach.

You would do this for about two weeks before increasing the stretch, and you should increase very minimally, by no more than a half inch each time you go deeper.

I have seen 100% success using this technique, and it is also the technique used at the highest level of weightlifting.

Massage:

While the easiest way to massage is to find a professional, it may not always be economically feasible.  Plus, you’re going to want to do it on a more consistent basis.

Here are two ways to massage your calf:

Lastly, one more culprit to check on is the inside thigh.  In many cases this area is not trained appropriately and as the IT band tightens, these muscles continue to weaken.  In order to resolve this you will need to strengthen that area. There are several ways to do this and I’ll give you the easiest one here.

Remember: muscles, when untrained, can only hold up for so long. Once they get pooped the load goes into tendons and so you will always need to look at two things in relation to IT band repair:

1)      Tightness of the calf or inner thigh,

2)      Lack of strength in the calf and thigh

Enjoy these exercises and be sure to leave a comment if you have any questions or to suggest a topic to cover.

~ Aaron Lipsey
Aaron Lipsey Fitness, Calgary, AB
Howtosquat.net

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7 thoughts on “Ask The Expert: How to Heal Your IT Band Pain!

  1. This was PERFECT, as I’ve been noticing a nagging pain in my right IT band, and have been foam rolling, which has helped, but I always want to know more about possible causes for body pain!
    My question is, HOW LONG, should I do the calf stretch?
    Thanks for being awesome!

    • Hey Amber! Just going by experience from what we usually do at my training sessions, you move into that very light stretch and hold it until the pull starts to subside, maybe like a count of 10-12? Then release and repeat. Each time you repeat you might find that you can go a teensy bit deeper. We would usually do the stretch for about 1-2 minutes total maybe?

      Glad to be informative for you today and hope it helps!! Let us know! 🙂 ~ Linds

      • Thank you again so much! Now I have another question…
        I’ve noticed that since doing this stretch (maybe a coincidence) that my Vastus Medialus (VMO) otherwise known as the part of my quad, closer to my inner thigh/knee area has been hurting/pulling/in pain. Could it be from this stretch? If so, what can I do besides ice for it? Is there a stretch for THAT specific part of the quad? 🙂

      • Hey! I’ve had the same kind of thing – different people feel different stretches in different places. I actually don’t feel this “calf” stretch in my calves, but in my ankles. Other people I train with do feel it in their shins or VMO sometimes. That sweet ache is actually a result of the stretch you are already doing – one of Aaron’s best tools, lengthening under force. So don’t worry, it’s OK thar it hurts there, that means it’s working for you! At our gym we roll a LOT, plus ice, and personally I also like to do a bath with Epsom salts. I hope maybe one or all of those things can ease the pain for you, and I promise that if you keep up with this stretch it will get better!

      • Also – just re-reading your ordinal comment – it occurs to me that maybe you’re over-stretching it. Remember that you’re looking for the most minimal, barely perceptible tug. It sounds silly, especially when you compare it to other stretching methods like yoga and stuff that encourage you to really push your limits, but I swear that it works!

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